A Wall Street–savvy consultant turns Navajo rug trader, finding a path to happiness in the process.
In this first volume in a memoir trilogy, Daugherty (Young Voices of Silver City, 2013) tells of how she decided to quit her job and devote her life to the Navajo tribe. She was inspired, in part, by a childhood memory of befriending a young Navajo girl who gave her a cherished “double doll” that had both Anglo and Navajo torsos that could be flipped back and forth. Daugherty took this dual-culture metaphor to heart as she set out to find weavers on the reservation; she aimed to sell their rugs and tapestries to wealthy collectors on the East Coast. She crisscrossed the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico while also navigating the ways of tribal culture. An English-speaking Navajo woman introduced her to a prized sand-painting weaver, who promised Daugherty a magnificent piece to help launch her new venture. But when the weaver sold the piece out from under her, Daugherty felt duped and unsure of her business’s viability. She gradually learned the nuances of Navajo relationships and developed a close friendship with the matriarch of a renowned family of Navajo artists, Anna Mae Hoskie, who later adopted her as an honorary daughter. Inspired by the Navajo women’s sense of community and harmony with nature, Daugherty pledged to “walk in beauty” by finding balance in her life and respect for herself, others and the world around her. The author paces her story well, finding threads of similarity in the Navajos’ lives and her own as the chapters alternate between two periods: before and after she met the Navajo women. The memoir also takes on a feminist air as she finds strength through the matrilineal society; she channels her own defiant ambition into an enterprise that lets her prove herself to doubters and helps the Navajo women gain financial independence. Throughout, she’s aware of her role as a sort of ambassador between the two cultures and provides readers with insights about Anglo and Navajo ways of life.
An engaging, heartfelt story of culture shock, betrayal and acceptance in a Native American community.